• McLernon, Susan
  • Murphy, Stephen D.
  • Aarssen, Lonnie W.


The cumulative (season‐long) incidence of heterospecific pollen transfer (HPT) was examined using nine sympatric species in a midsuccessional old field. Inflorescences were collected weekly during the flowering season, and the proportion of foreign pollen/stigma was recorded. Flowering phenologies of sympatric species and ovule and seed counts of study species were also recorded. Heterospecific pollen was detected on some stigmas of each species. Medicago sativa (Fabaceae) received the most foreign pollen; in some cases, all of the grains on a stigma were heterospecific. Lotus corniculatus (Fabaceae) received the least amount of foreign pollen; the incidence of heterospecific pollen was near zero in most cases. The mean and range of foreign pollen received varied by as much as an order of magnitude between species. The six species with zygomorphic flowers, all Fabaceae, received more heterospecific pollen than the three species with actinomorphic flowers, Potentilla recta and P. simplex(Rosaceae) and Ranunculus acris (Ranunculaceae). This probably reflects a bias because our data were analyzed on a cumulative basis and the Fabaceae had longer flowering phenologies. HPT was not correlated with the species' relative abundance within the community. Proportion of foreign pollen received varied temporally within species, and this variation generally was not related to phenology of any sympatric taxa or the species' own phenology. Pollen grain diameter was positively related to levels of foreign pollen received by species. This might be caused by poor adhesion of large pollen grains to small stigmatic papillae or if generalist pollinators carrying large amounts of heterospecific pollen visit the large‐grained species and specialists with little foreign pollen visit the small‐grained species. The large proportions of heterospecific pollen on stigmas of many species indicate that HPT occurs frequently in the community we studied and the implications may include reduced seed set because of occlusion by foreign grains. As yet, however, it is unclear how important a factor HPT is in mediating pollen limitation of reproductive success.


20 transects, sampled 9 herbs